TAMPA, Fla. – In the span of two weeks during the 2019 season, Aaron Hicks played out what has been the roller coaster theme of his career.
On July 23, against his former team, the Twins, after hitting a two-run homer to keep the Yankees alive in the top of the ninth, Hicks made an incredible, athletic running, diving catch of a fly ball in the 10th to seal a Yankees win over the Twins.
Fourteen days later, Hicks was on the injured list for the second time in the season, this time with what became a torn ulnar collateral ligament.
The tremendously athletic, switch-hitting Hicks has shown his potential to be a great player in his four seasons with the Yankees, particularly in 2018.
He has also shown his bad luck when it comes to staying healthy.
One of the few things to come out of the coronavirus shutdown for the Yankees, however, has been extra time for their high-powered injured list to heal.
Giancarlo Stanton (calf) and James Paxton (back surgery) will likely be ready to start a pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season – if the league and players can agree to the groundwork to get one back on the schedule.
Thursday, Brian Cashman said as much about Hicks, indicating he was on track with his rehab.
“He’s practicing dry swings. He’s got a throwing program. You know, I think obviously, him playing center field for the New York Yankees this summer is a legit option, as expected,” the Yankees GM said on a charity Zoom call.
“So his time frame is currently going as planned. so we’re excited to get him back because I think he’s one of the better center fielders in the game, both offensively and defensively.”
The concern for the Yankees coming into the season, however, was not just how long it will take Hicks to just get back to the big leagues, but how long it would take him to get back to his above-average level as an outfielder who has great range and uses his cannon of an arm to keep baserunners honest, and the Yankees only switch hitter, who can produce power from both sides.
The Yankees brought back the 36-year old Brett Gardner, off a career year in 2019, because of those concerns.
But the Yankees would like to see a return on their investment in Hicks sooner than later.
Hicks’s stature as one of the better center fielders in the game is why the Yankees did not let him get away last year.
In 2018, Hicks hit .248/.366/.467 last season with 27 home runs and 79 RBI last season.
He set career highs in runs scored (90), hits (119), extra-base hits (48), RBI and walks (90). He also set a career high with a 4.9 WAR, which was third among all center fielders.
The Yankees signed Hicks to a seven-year, $70 million deal last spring to make the then-29-year old a Yankee for the long term.